RIO DE JANEIRO – A dead whale appeared Wednesday morning on the sands of Rio de Janeiro’s famed Ipanema beach, Brazilian authorities said.
Weighing 30 tons and measuring up to 15 meters (49 ft) long, the whale was found with its jaw separated from the rest of the body, the city government said.
With the beach more crowded than usual for a Wednesday, thanks to a combination of a public holiday and nice weather, the crowd of onlookers attracted by the whale grew to several hundred before police arrived to cordon off the scene.
The whale’s body “is in an advanced state of decomposition,” biologist Rafael Carvalho told the news Web site G1. “From the state of the body – without skin, swollen – it may be that it died a week or more ago.”
Authorities hope to lift the whale onto a truck with a crane, avoiding the need to cut the body into pieces.
Nearly 100 whales, most of them humpbacks (known here as “yubartas”), have washed up dead on Brazil’s beaches this year, the largest number since records started being kept in 2002.
Experts attribute the increase to the growth of the whale population in Brazilian waters and a reduction in krill, the tiny crustaceans the whales eat.
Milton Marcondes, coordinator of the Yubarta Whale Project, said that most of the whales die at sea and are washed ashore by ocean currents.
During the Southern Hemisphere spring, yubartas migrate from Antarctica to the warmer waters off Brazil to mate.